The Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment Sub-Committee of the House of Lords European Union Committee, chaired by Baroness O'Cathain, is conducting an inquiry into the civil use in the EU of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), commonly referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or 'drones'.
Inquiry status: Report published; Government response received, report debated on 8 September 2015.
RPAS vary greatly in size, flying capability and methods of control. They are increasingly being used in Europe, in countries such as Sweden, France and the UK, to check for damage to road and rail bridges, monitor natural disasters such as flooding and to spray crops with pinpoint accuracy. Basic national safety rules apply to their use, but these rules differ across the EU and a number of key safeguards are not addressed in a coherent way.
The European Commission has been discussing since 2012 how to regulate the operations of RPAS in the EU. It published a Communication on 8 April 2014 setting out its ideas on how European industry can become a global leader in the market for this emerging technology. At the same time, it acknowledged that the integration of RPAS into the EU's airspace must be accompanied by adequate public debate on societal concerns, including:
- what is an 'equivalent' level of safety to manned aircraft, and how can RPAS be protected against security threats?
- how will data protection rules apply to RPAS and their usage?
- does the current framework for liability and insurance for manned aircraft need to be amended to take into account the specificities of RPAS?
The Committee will consider whether the Commission has identified the key issues in this debate, and how the EU's actions can benefit the RPAS industry in Europe in a way that is acceptable to all stakeholders. In its deliberation the Committee will look at wider questions such as the advantages and disadvantages of regulating RPAS at national, EU or international level and the new and innovative ways in which RPAS are likely to be used in the future.